Club’ Hails Education
tribute to Education Update’s seven years, the December
movie spotlights education. While the Greek and Roman classics
may be rare in today’s classrooms, many modern educators will
identify with Kevin Kline’s plight in Michael Hoffman’s The
Emperor’s Club as the dedicated assistant headmaster, William
Hundert, who tries to use his considerable skills to instruct
the spoiled, Sedgewick Bell (Emile Hirsch). Based on Ethan Cronin’s
story, “The Palace Thief,” the film is a bit stuffy and old fashioned.
Kline plays the devoted educator just right, from his striding
on campus to his neat handwriting on the blackboard. He believes
in the school’s motto: “The end depends on the beginning.” Standing
in for the film’s upscale academy is the prestigious Emma Willard
School in Troy, New York.
The action begins in the present as Hundert, now retired after
34 years of teaching at St. Benedict’s Boys Academy for Boys,
is at a lavish estate as a guest and muses over the past. It’s
the mid-seventies and he’s back at school playing den mother as
well as teacher to dedicated students like Deepak Mehta (Rishi
Mehta) and the moderately mischievous, Louis Masoudi (Jesse Eisenberg).
When the smart, but unruly Bell, a senator’s son, enrolls as a
freshman, his antics upend the classroom and he involves the other
boys in pranks like trying to seduce girls at a neighboring private
school. Immediately, Bell and Hundert become embroiled in a battle
of wills which again surface 25 years later. St. Benedict’s encourages
excellence with its Mr. Julius Caesar Contest involving essays
and a pop quiz featuring three finalists. Hundert bends the rules
to give Bell a spot at the top but is deceived by Bell’s cheating
during the contest.
Now, in the present, the contest will be held again at the grown
up Bell’s palatial resort. Here, the movie missteps a bit: The
adult men don’t resemble themselves as youngsters. Will Bell,
now a powerful corporate CEO and U.S. Senate candidate, carry
his flaws into manhood by cheating in the contest re-run? See
“The Emperor’s Club” and find out. (PG-13, 109 minutes, Universal
Pictures release; call 777-FILM.)#
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